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Canon Pixma MX870 Printer Review

by The Review CrewJuly 11, 2010

If you take the minimalist design of the Canon Pixma MX330, add the functionality of the Pixma MX7600, and throw in built-in Wi-Fi, you’ll end up with the Canon Pixma MX870. It offers wireless networking while still maintaining all the features you need to print, scan, fax, and copy. Despite its sporadic hiccups in output speed, we recommend the $199 Pixma MX870 as a worthwhile printer for shoppers that need a multifunctional printer at a very reasonable cost.

Design
The Pixma MX870 is the same shape as the Canon Pixma MX860 is, measuring 18.1 inches wide by 16.2 inches deep by 7.8 inches tall with grooved handles on its bottom that makes it easy to move around. Its curved edges and integrated control panel both exude a very sleek, attractive appeal that works just as well in an office as it does at home.

Its large 2.5-inch LCD screen is fixed inside the neatly organized control panel; the left side houses the power button as well as shortcuts for copy, fax, and scanning, and you also get a convenient jog dial to the right that lets you quickly scroll through the onscreen menus. The rest of the right side contains the usual fare of menu, settings, numerical keys, and navigation buttons. Canon also includes a dedicated “Memory Card” button for copying and printing images directly from the reader at the bottom and some smaller keys that automatically dial your preset fax numbers.

Canon offers three different options for paper input; the easiest method is through the 150-sheet tray that pulls out from underneath the folding output bay. You can throw another 150 sheets into the rear-loading cassette, and both trays have small plastic guides to fit a variety of sizes from four inch by six inch all the way up to legal sized media and No. 10 envelopes.

The versatility of having dual-paper feeds gives you the opportunity to store smaller photo paper in the rear tray and normal 8.5 inch by 11 inch media in the front, while the driver automatically chooses the right tray and paper for the print job. The third and final paper input tray is the auto-document feeder that sits on top of the unit and can hold up to 35 sheets of plain paper to copy or scan. As with most of the other trays that extend out, the ADF tucks neatly back into body of the printer while not in use.

The scanner bay is hidden in the middle of the printer, but you can also prop that open to reveal the MX870’s five ink cartridge bay that includes four dye-based inks in addition to a pigment-based ink for black text. We’ve always been big fans of separate ink cartridge bays because they save money, and the MX870 is no different. According to Canon’s Web site, each color ink tank costs $12.99 for a replacement cartridge, while the pigment-based black tanks run for $14.90 each. Canon also estimates a black-and-white document to cost 3 cents, a full-color document costs 5 cents, and it costs 29 cents per 4-inch-by-6-inch color photo; these prices are average for today’s typical photo printer.

We’re also happy to see that the MX870 includes a dedicated, covered media card reader, especially since we dinged the Canon Pixma MX330 for omitting one. This one is located at the bottom of the printer to the right of the paper output tray and has slots for MemoryStick Duo, SD, and Compact Flash cards.

Once you put a memory card in the system, the MX870 gives you two ways to print the contents: you can either pick several pictures using the navigation pad to create a batch print, or you can view, edit, and print individual pictures directly on the LCD. Manual edits include red-eye reduction, color effects like sepia and black-and-white, noise reduction, image optimizer, and so on. Finally, a PictBridge USB port on the right side lets you connect a compatible digital camera directly to the printer.

Features
The Pixma MX870 prints, scans, and copies via a USB 2.0 connection by default; however, you can connect it to an Ethernet network or a Wi-Fi network. Like many other wireless printers on the market, the software needs to establish a USB connection first to create a wireless connection. The driver’s setup assistant had us printing wirelessly in less than five minutes, and we were able to connect to the printer using both a Mac and PC.

The printer comes with a driver installation CD with a robust software suite that will definitely appeal to your creative side. The settings let you cycle between commonly used quality templates like standard, business, paper saving, and photo printing that automatically adjusts paper size and orientation, paper, and output quality. The driver lets you dive deeper into photo editing with options for vivid photos, borderless, monochrome effects, and even manual color adjustments, while the popup status monitor gives you a heads up view of the job status, document name, printer status, and gives you a rough idea of the current ink levels. We much prefer the MP870’s status monitor over the MP330’s, since the latter one doesn’t keep track of print progress.

The package includes a driver CD with all the installation files you need to customize your prints. Within those settings, you can choose between commonly used templates like standard, business, paper saving, and photo printing that adjust the type of media, paper size, and source. Additionally, the driver provides you with adjustments for borderless printing, vivid photos, grayscale prints, and even manual color intensities by numeral increments. It also features a pop-up print status monitor that shows the current job, document name, device owner, status, and a graphical representation of the ink cartridge levels. Conveniently, this pop-up automatically disappears once the job in queue is finished printing, but we prefer status monitors that show us the page and progress of the print.

The driver automatically installs Canon’s Easy Photo Print EX software onto your computer and has an array of creative features that let you print simple snapshot photos on the fly, create whole albums of artwork, print calendars with custom pictures, and custom stickers using Canon’s proprietary sticker paper. The explorer window on the main page works just like a Windows Explorer pane, except we prefer HP’s Solution Center layout that automatically scans and detects printable pictures on your hard drive for you.

Canon’s creative suite is incredibly easy to use and it lets you make simple photo edits like red-eye correction, face sharpening, and blemish removal, which is great for users that don’t want to deal with the hassle of editing software like Adobe Photoshop.

The copy functions on the MX870 are relatively standard for a multifunction device: you can make up to 99 copies at once and easily adjust the contrast and magnification of a document from 25 percent to 400 percent, all directly through the settings on the LCD menus. The scanner gives you two options to scan either single photos and documents or a stack of documents using the automatic document feeder. You also have several choices in terms of where you want to send a scanned document, such as directly to a PC as a JPEG, TIFF, BMP, or to a PDF file, or you can attach it to an e-mail with the option to scan and convert to text using optical character recognition. All scanned files are placed into your custom “My Box” directory, which displays all scanned and imported images as well as recently saved images onto the hard drive for future projects.

The MX870 is equally competent with graphics quality as it is with output speeds. The text in our sample prints came out a rich black with fully formed characters and thick lines, and the color spread retains its quality as well. Our four inch by six inch photos are evenly saturated and smooth throughout color transitions, but we do have a few complains about graphics printed on plain paper.

While the details are all fairly sharp and detailed, we did notice some blotches in pictures with multiple color transitions. The result is a series of tarnished white specks spread across the image. These malformations are visible at arm’s length, and while the specks don’t infect images printed on Canon’s glossy photo paper, it may be an issue for offices that print out presentations and graphics on plain paper.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.